A Picture That’s Worth $500

A social media campaign sponsored by Educators Credit Union has members seeing red … a red pen, that is.

It’s time to brush up on those photography skills.

Educators Credit Union ($1.5B; Racine, WI) kicked off 2014 with an idea for a new project inspired by the Flat Stanley project and derivative of a project from 2013. This iteration, though, incorporates the credit union’s strong social media presence, its iconic red pen, and photography.

In this video post from January 15, Educators’ social media coordinator, Rick Katschke, introduces and explains the rules for Educators’ Pen Pal Facebook Contest. Members photograph their Educators Credit Union pens in creative or interesting locations and post the picture to the credit union’s Facebook page. Every week, Educators selects one entrant to win a $10 Visa gift card, and twice a year in June and December Educators draws four winners to each receive a $500 deposit to their savings account. Members without a Facebook page can participate via an alternate entry form. But why the red pens?


data as of 09.30.13

  • HQ: Racine, WI
  • ASSETS: $1.5B
  • MEMBERS: 121,600
  • BRANCHES: 18
  • 12-MO SHARE GROWTH: 4.61%
  • 12-MO LOAN GROWTH: -0.56%
  • ROA: 0.94%

People have found our red pens all over the country, Katschke says. We’d hear stories where people had gone on vacation and came across one, or they needed their car towed and the tow truck two states away in Ohio had an Educators red pen. It’s just one of those things where these pens have traveled around the world.

The winner selection process is entirely random. Katschke assigns each of the entries numbers and puts them in a randomizer, which gives each entrant a fair chance to win the prize money.

Even if you post a boring picture of the pen in your car or whatever, that still definitely counts, he says.

The Social Network

Educators ran a similar social media contest in 2013 in which it handed out bumper stickers, asked members to stick them to their vehicles, and share a picture on Facebook. Katschke says although the promotion was a success, it did have inherent flaws that the credit union designed the Pen Pal Contest to evade.

[Pen Pal] is easier for people as opposed to picking up a bumper sticker, Katschke says. All of our members already have one of our pens on them, so it’s easier for them to take that photo.

The funds the credit union pays out to contest winners comprise the majority of the cost of the program. In return, the credit union hopes to generate positive word-of-mouth through social channels. The interconnectedness and social nature of Facebook will increase the chances that both members and non-members will see the photos and Educators will gain valuable awareness, Katschke says. New memberships would be a welcomed bonus.

People will see their friends sharing their pens for this contest, Katschke says. We want non-members to be curious as to what this is all about, [and ask] should I become a member?’

The social nature of the contest helps mitigate advertising costs, but the marketing budget isn’t $0. The credit union sponsored an initial post on Facebook to make sure its followers saw the program. Educators also promotes the program in its branches by running advertisements on its monitors and talking it up to members.

Goals and Benefits

It’s difficult for Katschke to determine what will make this contest successful, but he has goals for the yearlong promotion. Namely that the credit union receives enough photos to award more than one entrant the gift cards and deposits.

I want to have at least enough entries to last throughout the year, Katschke says. But, I really don’t have a specific goal.

The contest’s success depends upon the level of engagement Educators finds with its membership. And with more than 6,600 Facebook users currently liking the credit union’s page, there are many members with whom to connect.

In the first week of the program, Katschke estimates more than 30 members posted their pen pictures. That’s an encouraging start and stronger than the bumper sticker contest. So far, members have posted pictures with their pens in locations such as the Hoover Dam and Las Vegas. And as the year progresses, Katschke believes the entries will become more creative.

I think once the summer rolls around, we’ll get more people taking the pen on vacation, he says.

Ultimately, Educators hopes the contest encourages members to show off their member-owners status and offers the credit union a vehicle for positive word-of-mouth marketing. And as members become aware of the contest, it will expand its reach on social media. So far the signs are encouraging.

Based on the number of entries we have received before we announced a single winner, it already seems like it’s going to be a big success, Katschke says. Hopefully when we start announcing winners, it will spread the word-of-mouth and get more entries into the contest.

February 10, 2014

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